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Former top FBI lawyer James Baker to take stand in Durham’s case against Michael Sussmann

James Baker Screenshot-060619

Former top FBI lawyer James Baker to take stand in Durham’s case against Michael Sussmann

October 26, 02:57 PM October 26, 04:53 PM

Prosecutors revealed the FBI’s former top lawyer will take the stand in next year’s trial of Michael Sussmann, who special counsel John Durham charged with lying to the bureau in 2016 as he pushed claims of secret Trump-Russia communications.

Testimony from James Baker, who served as general counsel at the bureau from 2014 to 2018, could help Durham show Sussmann lied to him by saying he was not working on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A grand jury returned an indictment last month that centers on a September 2016 meeting between the two in which Sussmann passed along false claims of covert communications between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.

Although Durham alleged Sussmann told Baker he was not working for any specific client, the special counsel contends Sussmann was secretly doing the bidding Clinton’s presidential campaign while billing her team for it, as well as working on behalf of technology executive Rodney Joffe.

Word that Baker will testify came Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper asked if the government would provide testimony about Sussmann’s exact statement to the FBI. Andrew DeFilippis, an assistant special counsel for Durham, said that Baker will be called to the stand as a witness.

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The trial could begin in the spring of 2022.

Durham’s team told the court earlier this month that it had provided the Sussmann team with reams of discovery documents that reveal details from grand jury subpoenas sent to 15 individuals and organizations, likely including opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

Fusion hired British ex-spy Christopher Steele in 2016 to compile his now-discredited anti-Trump dossier. Sussmann, who was a partner for the Perkins Coie law firm, met with Steele during the 2016 election and communicated with the opposition research firm that year.

After Sussmann was indicted, his lawyers began to critique the case.

“The Special Counsel has brought a false statement charge on the basis of a purported oral statement made over five years ago for which there is only a single witness, Mr. Baker; for which there is no recording; and for which there are no contemporaneous notes by anyone who was actually in the meeting,” his lawyers said.

Baker left the FBI in 2018 and went on to work with Lawfare, a national security blog affiliated with the Brookings Institution, whose editor-in-chief is Benjamin Wittes, a friend of former FBI Director James Comey. Baker also worked for the R Street Institute and as a CNN legal analyst before joining Twitter as deputy counsel.

Baker previously defended the Russia investigation and the FBI’s handling of Steele’s dossier. He was involved in the sign-off process of at least the first Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application that targeted former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Baker was a subject in the report about the FBI’s Russia investigation released in December 2019 by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to FISA warrants against Page in 2016 and 2017 and for the bureau’s reliance on Steele’s dossier.

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Clinton tweeted about the Alfa Bank allegations in the closing days of the 2016 race on Halloween. She also shared a statement from Jake Sullivan, her foreign policy adviser who is now President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, on “New Report Exposing Trump’s Secret Line of Communication to Russia.”

Horowitz said in his December 2019 report on the Russia investigation that the FBI “concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links” between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.

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